Q&A: What do you do in your downtime?
California Lawyer

Q&A: What do you do in your downtime?

October 2013

Clariza Garcia

Since I began working at Patton Wolan Carlise, I have more downtime (relatively speaking) than at my previous firm. Lifestyle was actually very much a part of my decision in coming here. My boyfriend, who is also an attorney, recently started working for himself and is a little more flexible too. One of the things we do is hike a lot. We have a big golden retriever and we live in Novato, which has some great hiking spots.

We also watch a lot of basketball -- we love to watch the Warriors, regardless of how they're doing. Other than that, I don't watch very much TV, except for The Good Wife. It has a law angle but there's certain soap opera-feel to it, so it's a bit escapist and a real break from being at work. It has a lot of plotlines around office politics and personal politics that are very enjoyable. I also really like to read John Grisham novels -- my favorites are The Rainmaker and The Street Lawyer.

Because I'm in a relationship with a lawyer, I spend a lot of time talking about the law. For example, our current argument is about whether punishment in general is a deterrent from committing crimes, or whether it's unfair to incarcerate someone as a means of deterring someone else.

Oh, and the other thing I like to focus on in my downtime? Sleep.

Clariza Garcia has been practicing labor and employment law for over 16 years, and is currently an associate at Patton Wolan Carlise LLP in Oakland.

Chad Firetag

I do a lot of endurance races -- triathlons, mostly. A lot of my therapy, in a sense, is running or biking or swimming. I feel more agitated and uneasy on days when I don't run or do some form of exercise. I do have a pretty busy family life -- I'm married and have three boys between 6 months and 7-years-old -- so it's a little hard to juggle long endurance racing with having a family life and being a lawyer, but I make it work.

I almost never work out in the evenings -- that's my family time. I go out pretty early in the morning, usually before my kids get up. I'll sometimes leave at 5 am and hit the pool, or if it's a run, I might do two hours from about 5-7 am. It's very peaceful at that time, very quiet outside.

Normally, I have several races over the course of the year. Right now I'm training for an Iron Man in Arizona in November. It's my first full one, and it's honestly a little more training than I would have anticipated. This is my personal form of release, and I think in this career everyone has his or her own way of releasing stress. The truth is, a lot of times I see people who drink as a release. And don't get me wrong, I like having a beer like everybody, but too much alcohol really affects my training and I'm too type A to let that happen. My drug is exercise -- I'm honestly a little addicted to the runner's high, and I feel cranky if I go without it for too long. I hope to always do something active in my life, even if I can't keep up this level of training forever.

Chad Firetag has been practicing law since 2001, and is an assistant public defender in Riverside County.

Denise Smith-Mars

Downtime for me, like many of those in my field, is hard to come by, so it's very special. I have a toddler; my first child. It may seem odd to say that my downtime consists of running up and down the stairs with my son, teaching him that a certain amount of food should actually make it into his mouth (and cleaning up the aftermath), responding to the "Why, Mommy?" question for everything I say, and constantly being reminded that I'm simply not as cool as Elmo. But that's how I spend the majority of my downtime and I wouldn't have it any other way.

While I don't have much time to watch television, I do have a couple of guilty pleasures. I'm a big fan of Scandal and love to get lost for an hour in the intense and complicated life of Olivia Pope. And when I feel like laughing out loud I turn to Modern Family.

Finally, music is and has always been a great way to escape from the pressures of work. I love classical music, whether playing it on the piano or listening to it before going to bed each night. I also sing in a gospel group, which I find both relaxing and therapeutic. Because my days (and many nights) are consumed with defending clients against consumer class action claims, these activities help to provide much needed balance.

Denise Smith-Mars is senior counsel in the Los Angeles office of Loeb & Loeb LLP. She concentrates her practice on complex commercial litigation.

Dennis Sharp

When you work for yourself, it's hard to let yourself get away. You have to physically remove yourself from your work and engage. There are three major things I do to escape. Family is first. On Saturday, about half the day is taken up doing errands, but then I really try to get in some time with my ten-year-old daughter and my wife (who also works full time). The goal is to totally disconnect from work and do things we enjoy together; for me, that means to get entirely away from the day-to-day. We travel, spend time at the beach, and go to the zoo. Occasionally my wife Ellen and I will try to travel on our own, or just get out for a date night.

I'm also a golf nut. I've been playing golf for a long time, and it's definitely something that gets my brain entirely away from work. Smart phones make it hard, but I do my best to ignore mine while I'm playing. I try to get out on the course once a week, and I find I can break up the work day by practicing a little bit on my game. To me, working out is work -- necessary work, of course -- so you need other things that give you a real break.

The other thing that gets me away is landscaping and gardening around my yard. I always feel better when I'm doing it, and after I'm done. It's a great reminder of the passage of time and the seasons coming and going. And right now, playing the guitar is becoming a part of my routine, though I'm in the early stages of learning it so it still feels like work.

Dennis Sharp is an ADR professional and the president of Sharp Resolutions. He also teaches at California Western School of Law and University of San Diego School of Law.

Laurie Avedisian

I live in Fresno where we have a pretty warm, extended summer. My favorite thing to do here is wakeboarding at the lake -- you'll find me there most weekends. About the time I started practicing law I bought my first boat and learned how to wakeboard. By law, you have to have three people on the boat: the wakeboarder, the driver, and someone holding the flag to watch the wakeboarder, so it's actually a very social activity. And it turns out that a lot of my attorney friends have this same hobby, so we go out together (though we certainly also wakeboard with non-attorneys as well).

It's really very relaxing and a nice way to escape. Our cell phones don't always work up at the lake, so nothing is bothering us. It's great to get out there and feel the sun, the water, and just relax -- it's like a mini vacation. I truly believe that physical, outdoor activities are the easiest way to get relief from mental stress.

I also run and am active with Team in Training. I've run three marathons and several half marathons. And of course, I prioritize spending time with friends and family in my downtime -- the key is getting things on the calendar in advance.

Laurie Avedisian is a partner in Lozano Smith's Fresno office and co-chair of the firm's Local Government Practice Group. She is the president of the Fresno County Bar Association.

Reader Comments

Comment by Andrea Carlise - October 25, 2013
We are very proud of our ability to offer our lawyers reasonable hours (40 to 50 hour weeks) here at Patton Wolan Carlise LLP. Downtime is important for everyone and allows us to be better lawyers. FYI, though, it is "Carlise", not "Carlisle" -- auto correct and spell check be damned!

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